I'm trying to figure out how to call the political system of a fictional country I am writing about.

The basic premise is that this country came into being after 4 kingdoms decided to unite into 1 country to accelerate recovery after an absolutely huge natural disaster. Only, at the point they united, the people got to choose their leader and instead of electing one of the members of the former royal houses they chose the then current leader of the newly combined armed forces. (who was a very popular figure)

From that point onward, it basically became tradition that the leader of the armed forces also lead the country. (the leader changes on retirement or if the current one is deposed by popular vote)

In the ''present time'' where the story takes place, the national leader still is the leader of the armed forces, but the current leader has decided to let every city in the country choose 1 person who represents that city.

These combined representatives may give advice and suggest things to the leader, who likewise may call upon the representatives for their input in state business, BUT he or she in NOT required or obliged by any means to actually listen or act upon the advice given to him. So while the leader may use the advice the representatives give him/her, there is nothing stopping him/her from completely ignoring said advice and just do what he/she thinks should be done.

I can't figure out if this would fall squarely under dictatorship or some weird form of democracy. Anyone here able to help me find out what a form of government like this would be called?

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Oct 12, 2021 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ May I assume when you say 1 representative advisor by city you mean one by local district and not only cities? $\endgroup$
    – Tomás
    Oct 13, 2021 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ In this world countries are a lot smaller than ours so even with 1 advisor per city/town you would end up with less than 60 people $\endgroup$
    – Blue Devil
    Oct 13, 2021 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ You mention popular vote to change the head of state. Does this country have regular elections? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Oct 14, 2021 at 17:48

3 Answers 3

  • Your country is an elective absolute monarchy.

    • It is a monarchy because the head of state is in office for life, or until they choose to leave office.

      The question states that the head of state can also be deposed by a popular vote; however, the question also states that the head of state is not bound to obey the advice of what passes for a parliament. Therefore, there will be no popular vote unless the head of state allows it. As a consequence, the head of state cannot be actually dismissed by a popular vote unless they allow it.

      Some absolute monarchies still exist in the world today. Saudia is a well-known example.

    • It is an absolute monarchy because the monarch holds supreme authority without having to follow the advice of anybody else of any deliberative body.

      For reference, the opposite of an absolute monarchy is a constitutional monarchy; for example, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy; but before 1215 (Magna Charta) is was pretty much an absolute monarchy. France was an absolute monarchy before the French Revolution of 1789.

    • It is an elective monarchy because the monarch is elected into office, rather than inheriting their position.

      While hereditary monarchies were indeed more usual in history, there are quite a few well known examples of elective monarchies. The Kingdom of England was an elective monarchy before the Norman conquest; the Kingdom of Poland was a long-lived elective monarchy. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was an elective monarchy.

    • Putting it all together, we have an elective absolute monarchy.

  • A well-known historical example of an elective absolute monarchy is the Roman Empire from the first century BCE to the fourth or fifth century CE, a span of time of about four centuries. And guess what, the emperor was just about always a leader of the armed forces...

Notes about vocabulary:

  • A country you like is never called a dictatorship. A dictatorship is the political structure of a country you don't like, if it has a strong central authority. If the country you don't like does not have a strong central authority, then you call it a chaotic anarchy.

  • The main distinction in political structures used to be between monarchies and republics, but nowadays most existing monarchies are functionally indistinguishable from republics. For example, both the Queen of England and the President of Germany hold purely symbolic positions with very little actual political power. (Quiz: do you even know who is the President of Germany?) Functionally, both the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany work in the same way, being led by the head of government (called Prime Minister in one of them, and Chancellor in the other); in practice, they are both parliamentary democracies.

  • At the most general level, a democracy is any kind of political system where meaningful voting is a regular event, and a significant part of the people get to vote. When meaningful voting is a regular event, but only a small part of the people get to vote, you generally speak of an aristocratic republic.

  • Note that words are not magic. Calling your country an empire, or calling it a republic, won't change anything. Countries are allowed to call themselves whatever they like. For a very well known example, the Most Serene Republic of Venice was an elective monarchy, but that didn't stop it from calling itself a republic.

    (This particular divorce between name and reality began with the Romans, who called their decidedly imperial state the Roman Republic. In their defence, they spoke Latin, and in Latin res publica means commonwealth; they didn't even have a word meaning specifically "a commonwealth where the top magistrates are elected for a limited term".)


Popular stratocracy

  • This isn't a precise match but rule by the military, as a general principle, has been referred to as a stratocracy by political theorists. Assuming that the leader of the military rises through the ranks in the usual (semi-)meritocratic way associated with post-19th century militaries, it ultimately means that the military hierarchy selects who will be the next leader and therefore can be said to be the ruling class. The few known real world cases of stratocracies are associated with the military also performing many of the functions of civilian government but, even if that's not the case in the querent's scenario, the term is close enough to be applicable anyway IMO.
  • The leader can be dismissed by a vote of the public, implying that said ruler has to have their confidence, hence "popular". This is by analogy with the concept of popular sovereignty, that a government only exists with the consent of the governed.
  • [EDIT] While it is true that the government is autocratic / dictatorial, it doesn't seem necessary to mention it as part of the formal terminology since it's somewhat implied by being ruled by a military, which is autocratic by its very nature.
  • [EDIT] The existence of an advisory body made up of representatives of the governed also does not merit mention in the formal term since it is neither a permanent nor essential element of the nature of the government. According to the question, it only exists at the sufferance of the leader and none of its statements or advice are binding.

Alternatively, "constitutional stratocracy" might be another option since presumably, what the leader can do and how they are selected or dismissed is codified in a charter, constitution, or similar document.


Military dictatorship


You have an absolute autocrat. Because he is the autocrat by virtue of heading the military it is a military dictatorship. That term is a latter day term and in days where monarchies were more common, it would just be a monarchy with the difference that the king (the autocrat) did not inherit his title but came to it in a different way - usually in the case of military men by overthrowing whomever came before.

The tricky thing in your system or in any military dictatorship is succession. Your autocrat is head of the military and unless he is unusually enlightened and designates a successor and retires, he will remain autocrat and head of the military until he dies. Who then becomes leader? At least in a hereditary monarchy normal succession is obvious: his heir will be the new autocrat. And his heir knows it too. Having the top military person be the new autocrat means that non-top military people will always be jockeying for the role.


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